The principle of laser marking
Laser marking is a method for labeling various kinds of objects using a laser.
The principle of laser marking is that a laser beam somehow modifies the optical appearance of a surface that it hits.
The principle of laser marking can occur through a variety of mechanisms:
- ablation of material (laser engraving); sometimes removing some colored surface layer
- melting a metal, thus modifying the surface structure
- slight burning e.g. of paper, cardboard, wood, or polymers
- transformation (e.g. bleaching) of pigments (industrial laser additives) in a plastic material
- expansion of a polymer, if e.g. some additive is evaporated
- generation of surface structures such as small bubbles
By scanning the laser beam (e.g. with two movable mirrors), it is possible to quickly write letters, symbols, bar codes, and other graphics, using a vector scan or a raster scan.
Another method is to use a mask which is imaged. This method is simple and faster but less flexible than scanning.
Laser marking has a huge variety of applications:
- adding part numbers, “use by” dates and the like on food packages, bottles, etc.
- adding traceable information for quality control
- marking printed circuit boards, electronic components, and cables
- printing logos, bar codes and other information on products
Laser marking has many advantages over other marking techniques such as inkjet printing and mechanical marking, such as very high processing speeds, low operating costs (without consumables), constant high quality and resulting durability, and avoidance of contamination.
Ability to write very small features and very high automation flexibility.
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